A federal judge Friday rejected a $324 million class-action settlement in the anti-trust case that pitted engineers against many of the biggest names in Silicon Valley: Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe and others. Calling the settlement “insufficient,” Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court in San Jose did nothing to disguise her sense of outrage over both the “ample evidence” of “an overarching conspiracy” to prevent talent from jumping across company boundaries, and also for the plaintiff’s lawyers she all but accused of taking their 25% cut of the lowball settlement in exchange for a quick but unfair resolution of the anti-trust case. The settlement, which after the lawyers’ fees would have sent about $4,000 to each of the signatories to the anti-poaching suit, failed to come “within the range of reasonableness,” Koh wrote.
Koh’s ruling took direct aim at the late Apple chief Steve Jobs for spearheading the anti-poaching scheme through direct threats and intimidation that left other CEOS quivering in response. “If you hire a single one of these people, that means war,” Jobs emailed his Google counterparts after an attempt to hire Apple engineers. The New York Times reported that Koh “noted that ‘a jury would have found these documents very significant and pretty compelling.'”
The case is now expected to go to trial.